So, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has now fired former National Review columnist Kevin Williamson. The reason, supposedly, was that Williamson had written a tweet years ago suggesting the death penalty as a punishment for abortion; he also appeared on a podcast wherein he discussed the idea. But Williamson’s tweet was widely distributed on Twitter for years. In other words, this wasn’t anything new. Goldberg merely caved to public pressure from the Left.
In firing Williamson, Goldberg — a pawn of the Obama administration who acted as their front man for selling a series of egregious lies to the American public about the Iran deal — stated that Williamson’s talent as a writer wasn’t enough to save him: “The language he used in this podcast — and in my conversations with him in recent days — made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views.” So, just to be straight, Williamson’s recommendation of the death penalty for abortion is unacceptable (I disagree with it, of course, as I’ve stated many times), but the Left is fine with abortion-on-demand and eugenic abortion targeting Down Syndrome babies. And The Atlantic is totally fine with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote that 9/11 first responders were “not human to me,” but Williamson is unacceptable.
Here’s why this matters.
The Left’s attempts to shrink the Overton Window — the spectrum of acceptable discourse — will result in the utter polarization of politics in the worst possible ways. In fact, it already has.
First, the Left separates discourse into two categories: the acceptable and the unacceptable. Not three — the acceptable, the unacceptable, and that with which they disagree. Two. You are either acceptable or unacceptable.
Next, the Left shrinks the acceptable down to the opinions located between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If you are to the right of David Frum, you are unacceptable; you are, in fact, deplorable. This label extends to everyone from Williamson to Bari Weiss (who is not a conservative) to Sam Harris (who sins by looking at data) to Bret Weinstein (a liberal professor) to me. If you’re not within the ambit of acceptable opinion, you are cast out.
This necessarily means that a broad spectrum of people with controversial, interesting, but non-bigoted opinions are now lumped in with actual bigots. This leaves those who are lumped into the unacceptable category alongside truly awful people like the trolls of the alt-right with a choice: they can either resist by attempting to draw distinctions with those awful people, or they can make common cause with those awful people — people they’d disdain under any other circumstances — to take on the Left. This is why so many on the Right were relatively unperturbed by President Trump winking at the alt-right, for example. They rightly saw the Left as unleashing a war on their very existence (after all, even people like Kevin Williamson, a man who termed Trump’s sons “Uday and Qusai,” are now unacceptable to the Left). And these right-wingers were willing (wrongly) to make common cause with truly bad human beings in order to fight back in that war; in a war, you take the allies you can get.
Now, the Left has counted on the virtue of conservatives to keep them from making common cause with truly garbage people. And that’s worked for a certain segment of conservatives, who have maintained the evils of the alt-right whether or not they supported Trump, for example. But counting on the virtue of people you’ve just deemed unacceptable not to band together against you is both stupid and unrealistic over time. This is how reactionary movements are born: you tell people they’re evil even when they’re not. You lump them in with other evil people, and then dare them to make alliances with the actual evil people.
What The Atlantic just did to Williamson — and other moves like it — lead conservatives to side with anyone the Left casts out, good or bad, merely as a form of protection. That shouldn’t happen. But it does. And the Left causes such reactionary politics with its censorship and slander.